No silver bullets. How UNDP learned to embrace system thinking

Giulio Quaggiotto

Accepting that wellbeing and sustainable development are complex challenges means acknowledging the limitations of linear planning and moving away from the allure of designing single-point solutions (“the mobile app that will save the world”).

This is not an easy shift for bureaucracies that have been traditionally designed for a world of predictability. Drawing on concrete examples of projects from across the Asia Pacific, this talk will cover the innovation journey of UNDP as it is exploring system thinking approaches to tackle difficult, ambiguous challenges such as the future of work or the redesign of waste and food systems. Participants will be invited to reflect on questions such as how to design portfolios of interventions that are coherent to the nature of systemic problems, how to collectively create meaningful representations of systems, and how to tackle entrenched power dynamics that are inherent in the status quo.


Giulio Quaggiotto is the Head, Strategic Innovation, Regional Innovation Center, United Nations Development Programme. As Head of UNDP’s Regional Innovation Center for the Asia Pacific, he works with governments across the region to develop renewal capabilities and accelerate impact on complex development challenges. He is an MIT Research Associate with a focus on lead user innovation.

Prior to joining UNDP, he was the Director of Community at Climate KIC and an Innovation Advisor for the Prime Minister’s Office in the UAE. Giulio’s career includes stints at Nesta, WWF and the World Bank. He was also the manager of the Jakarta Lab of the UN Global Pulse, a flagship innovation initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General on big data for public policy.

His interests include portfolio approaches to innovation and incorporating grassroots innovations into national innovation systems. He is a regular speaker at international conferences on the intersection of social innovation, technology and international development.

Posted Oct-2020

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